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The Covid-19 Pandemic

by Ian Round5:47 pmApr 7, 20200

Hogan orders Maryland Health Department to report race data for coronavirus cases

After two consecutive days of data show the virus spreading more slowly in Maryland, the question is asked: could social distancing be working?

Above: A playground in Hampden warns people to follow the governor’s stay-at-home order. (Fern Shen)

The Maryland Department of Health will begin publishing data on the race and ethnicity of coronavirus patients this week, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday.

“[He] wants the department to be as proactive as possible with this,” Kata Hall, Hogan’s top speechwriter, wrote on Twitter.

Hogan’s directive follows data showing the virus disproportionately affects poor and black communities, which have higher-than-average rates of underlying health conditions. On its coronavirus site, the Health Department currently lists the home jurisdiction and age range of all known cases, as well as the statewide number of deaths and the gender breakdown.

However, Hogan said the data won’t be comprehensive, since some out-of-state labs conducting tests for Maryland patients don’t keep track of race and ethnicity.

“We do anticipate having significant gaps in the data that will be available to us,” said Hogan, speaking after a tour of the Baltimore Convention Center, where the Maryland National Guard has set up a 250-bed field hospital for non-urgent patients.

Could Distancing be Working?

As of Tuesday morning, 4,371 Marylanders have known cases of the novel coronavirus, and 103 have died, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Baltimore County has 652 positive cases, and Baltimore City has 459.

For two days in a row, the number of new cases has been lower than the day before, meaning the virus has spread more slowly. On Monday, when 326 cases were reported, Maryland saw the lowest number of new known cases since March 31.

Hogan and the medical experts advising him said that may mean social distancing is working.

For two days in a row, the number of new cases in Maryland has been lower than the day before.

“If confirmed over time, it would be a very good move in the right direction,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, one of Hogan’s advisers during the pandemic.

“We do hope our peak day will be sooner and there are some encouraging signs,” Inglesby said.

“These actions and sacrifices are making a huge difference,” Hogan said. “We believe that we have dramatically lowered the potential of [a worst-case scenario].”

Mitch Schwartz, chief medical officer of Anne Arundel Health System and a Hogan adviser, said “All the actions taken by the Governor have depressed the peak of case volume, and that saves lives.”

But, they said, flattening the curve also means extending the curve.

“It’s gonna take a longer period of time but not be as bad,” Hogan said.

That bit of good news had some asking whether the state would ease social distancing guidance. Hogan said he would open the state back up gradually. He said his goal is to avoid trying to return to normal too quickly, allowing the virus to spread quickly again.

“It won’t be like we’ll flip a switch and everything’s back to normal,” Hogan said. “We’re gonna be really cautious.”

Other Annapolis News

Also today, thanking the Trump Administration for “sincerely listening to our concerns,” Hogan announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave 200 ventilators to Maryland.

The White House declared the Baltimore-Washington corridor an “emerging hotspot,” a designation that gives the area priority in receiving federal resources over areas where the virus is not as prevalent.

The governor also announced that he hired former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb to join his coronavirus task force.

Hogan said 90 nursing homes now have residents or staff with known COVID-19 cases, up from 81 this weekend. His office has not said which facilities have COVID-19 cases, nor the number of cases or deaths.

And he announced he had signed an executive order allowing local health departments and law enforcement agencies to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Rainy Day Fund, or no?

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he didn’t support City Council President Brandon Scott’s proposal to use $25 million of the city’s rainy day fund for coronavirus relief.

“We have a lot of other things the council is asking for and none of them are responsible for the budget,” Young said at a press conference outside City Hall. “They really don’t know what the budget looks like… The budget is drained.”

Henry Raymond, Young’s finance director, echoed his boss, saying, “We have to be very judicious about the use of the rainy day fund.”

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